13th Weurman Flavour Research Symposium, Special Issue Part II The risk of dying of success and the search for real novelty
Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Flavour and Fragrance Journal
Special Issue: Special Issue Part II 13th Weurman Flavour Research Symposium Zaragoza, Spain, 27th – 30th September 2011
Volume 27, Issue 6, page 397, November 2012
How to Cite
Ferreira, V. (2012), 13th Weurman Flavour Research Symposium, Special Issue Part II The risk of dying of success and the search for real novelty. Flavour Fragr. J., 27: 397. doi: 10.1002/ffj.3129
- Issue published online: 16 OCT 2012
- Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
I do not really mean we are dying, nor am I really stating that we are enjoying great success, certainly not here, in southern Europe. But in some sense we are already successful, or we can be, although we also run the risk of becoming irrelevant. As was stated in the previous editorial, flavour chemistry will certainly be a powerful link between different branches of science and an important part of many different scientific projects, but the specific role it will play in the development of such projects and, in particular, whether we, flavour chemists, will take a decisive leadership or just have a minor and secondary portion of the different ‘cakes’ has yet to be decided. Up to 15 years ago, it was expertise in synthetic organic chemistry, together with some knowledge of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, that led the way. The gas chromatograph was the ‘eye’ (the ‘nose’, in fact), and organic chemistry was the ‘gun’. In the last 10 years, we have seen the second part of this story, and we are now using the more powerful HPLC-MS ‘eyes’ to target taste-active and mouth-feel active molecules. Although such powerful instruments can really help us to approach new flavour systems, something else is required this time. We saw some signs of change when, in the last decade, companies realized that they needed chemo-physics to address many key issues related, for instance, to flavour encapsulation, release and dosage or, more recently, when integrated approaches for understanding satiety and sensory properties are explored.
On the other hand, we can also see some examples of how bad things can be. There are some huge projects led by genetic engineers or biotechnologists with the explicit purpose of improving the general quality of some natural products – including, of course, sensory quality – in which the role of flavour chemistry is marginal. Moreover, in some of those projects the flavour chemistry part is misguided and run by people who, although having some experience with chromatography, do not have experience in flavour chemistry.
Going back to our previous comparison, in many instances we no longer own the ‘gun’ and, even if we have the ‘eye’, we are failing to communicate to other colleagues, managers and the general public, the relevance, specificity and importance of our vision. Such failure can be partly traced back to the lack of a clear academic tradition and of lobbying strength, but it may also be related to our reluctance and resistance to adapt (rather than just incorporate) new concepts and tools, such as those derived from the ‘ohmics-world’, or developed by sensory scientists and psychophysicists, in order to make our vision more powerful, accurate and successful. Pioneers began exploring some of those paths in the latest Weurman symposium, and it is hoped that many more will build up a more consistent corpus that we will discover in 2 years' time in Cambridge. I sincerely hope that this second and last selection of papers from the latest Weurman conference can help us to undertake such endeavour.